Interview: Self Care with Lauren Cummins

Lauren Cummins is a psychotherapist with an educational background in clinical social work. Lauren is the creator of Self Care Solitaire.

What are Self Care Solitaire decks?

Although the title I use professionally is “psychotherapist” I also absolutely identify as a “social worker.” It is out of this person centred approach to mental health work, that the idea for Self Care Solitaire was born.

My background in social work has taught me to regard each person as an expert on their own lives, to notice strengths over weaknesses and to always believe in the ability of people to change, grow and develop.

I sell playing card decks printed with original art and self care advice. I have plans to develop lots of different themed decks and recently released the first deck, which is called Journey. The theme of journey is internal exploration and it was designed to help satisfy wanderlust by encouraging inward travel. Cards in each of the four suits in the Journey Deck include a different kind of self care tip. There are self care activities, quotes, mantras and media suggestions (TV shows, movies, albums, books, etc.) which all relate to the theme of identity experimentation and fascination with the unknown.

What motivated you to create them?

The first deck I created came about as my sister was graduating from college. She shared with me that she felt both excited to start something new and also a bit untethered in terms of identity and self care. These feelings seemed so normal to me and I noticed that many of my clients were exploring similar themes. I hoped to share with my sister what I was sharing with my clients but couldn’t think of a realistic way to do so. (At the time, I was living and working as a therapist halfway across the country in New York City.)

I started brainstorming ideas about a graduation present that would provide her with a portable form of support from me. I bought a deck of cards at a bodega and collaged, decorated and pasted self care suggestions, affirmations and therapeutic tools onto each one. As I was creating her deck, I started thinking about whether others would benefit from a similar form of pocket sized self care support.

How should people use them?

There are several different ways to use the Journey deck. You can carry a deck with you and shuffle through it on a busy day to help centre yourself.

My greatest hope is that we may all fill ourselves to the brim with love, and share the overflow with the rest of the planet.

When you have some free time, you might choose a card at random and engage in the activity it recommends. Or you could buy a deck and give it away, one card at a time, to friends who could use a reminder to care for themselves. Another option is to play solitaire with your deck, letting the messages of self care sink in as you play, reminding yourself that all you need in order to feel cared for, is you. 

How can they benefit users?

I see the Journey deck as a pocket sized atlas for adventure. In the same way that a map benefits a traveller, I hope that the Journey deck will be a guide for people embarking on the road to self discovery, inspiring self love and acceptance along the way.

What inspires your work?

I am especially inspired by people who lead rich internal lives and have meaningful and rewarding relationships with themselves.

People inspire my work. People in general, as well as certain people; clients, family members, friends, mentors, favourite musicians, authors, fictional characters, the list goes on and on!

The singer and writer Patti Smith is someone who writes about her self care practices in such a beautiful way that is in impossible not to be inspired. I would highly recommend her two memoirs, Just Kids and M Train, to anyone looking for a creative example on developing sacred self care routines and rituals. But honestly, people who struggle with self care are an inspiration too. They are the ones who will benefit most from my decks and the messages in my blog. They are the ones I work for.

What advice do you have for anyone struggling with self care?

Know that you’re not alone! Developing a self care routine can be a long and difficult process, especially if we are battling ingrained messages that we aren’t worthy of self love. Think of it like a practice; we don’t learn new skills overnight, so we must give ourselves time to develop them. Challenge yourself to engage in a different type of self care each day, and journal about how each activity makes you feel. In this way, you will begin to collect a list of things that help you feel well. Once you have a set self care routine, enjoy the comfort that it provides, but don’t be afraid to shake it up every once in a while by trying something new or experimenting a little. Stay creative!

What is your hope for the world?

 My hope for the world is that we may develop a sense of global community that doesn’t discriminate based on race, country of origin, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, ability, age or gender. I believe self care and self love are the first steps towards developing the ability to love others in a way that is fully accepting and true.

I’m curious what would happen if we begin to think of ourselves as existing as a part of our world, instead of separate from it.

Eleanor Brownn said it best when she wrote, “rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”